People with mobility, circulatory, respiratory, or neurological disabilities use many kinds of devices for mobility. Some use walkers, canes, crutches, or braces. Some use manual or power wheelchairs or electric scooters. In addition, advances in technology have given rise to new devices, such as Segways®, that some people with disabilities use as mobility devices, including many veterans injured while serving in the military. And more advanced devices will inevitably be invented, providing more mobility options for people with disabilities.

Businesses, non-profit organizations, and state and local governments must allow people with disabilities who use manual or power wheelchairs or scooters, and manually-powered mobility aids such as walkers, crutches, and canes, into all areas where members of the public are allowed to go.

The above entities must also allow people with disabilities who use other types of power-driven mobility devices into their facilities, unless a particular type of device cannot be accommodated because of legitimate safety requirements. Where legitimate safety requirements bar accommodation for a particular type of device, the covered entity must provide the service it offers in alternate ways if possible.

In deciding whether a particular type of mobility device can be accommodated in a particular facility, the following factors must be considered:

  • The type, size, weight, dimensions, and speed of the device;
  • The facility’s volume of pedestrian traffic (which may vary at different times of the day, week, month, or year);
  • The facility’s design and operational characteristics (e.g., whether its business is conducted indoors or outdoors, its square footage, the density and placement of furniture and other stationary devices, and the availability of storage for the mobility if needed and requested by the user);
  • whether legitimate safety requirements (such as limiting speed to the pace of pedestrian traffic or prohibiting use on escalators) can be established to permit the safe operation of the mobility device in the specific facility; and
  • Whether the use of the mobility device creates a substantial risk of serious harm to the immediate environment or natural or cultural resources, or poses a conflict with Federal land management laws and regulations.

It is important to understand that these assessment factors relate to an entire class of device type, not to how a person with a disability might operate the device. (See next topic for operational issues.) All types of devices powered by fuel or combustion engines, for example, may be excluded from indoor settings for health or environmental reasons, but may be deemed acceptable in some outdoor settings. Also, for safety reasons, larger electric devices such as golf cars may be excluded from narrow or crowded settings where there is no valid reason to exclude smaller electric devices like Segways®.

Businesses are not required to provide personal devices (such as wheelchairs, or motorized scooters) to customers with disabilities. A business may choose to provide services like this as a way to attract customers. For example, some large retail stores provide electric carts for use by customers while shopping.   The ADA does not require these services; it leaves it up to the business to decide what services it wants to provide. The ADA simply says a business should provide the same goods and services to all of its customers, including those with disabilities.  However, making it possible for customers with disabilities to purchase your goods and services is an important part of complying with the ADA.  The ADA requires businesses to make “reasonable modifications” in their normal ways of doing things when necessary to accommodate people who have disabilities.  Most accommodations involve making minor adjustments in procedures or providing some extra assistance. Usually the customer will let you know if he or she needs some kind of accommodation.

Resources:

http://www.ada.gov/opdmd.htm

http://www.ada.gov/reachingout/lesson13.htm